RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And in Pakistan the two parties that triumphed in parliamentary elections are now faced with what to do about mounting terrorist violence there. The new government may not involve the man the Bush administration has tied its fortunes to, President Pervez Musharraf. So the challenge for the U.S. is how to work with Pakistan's new leadership to fight militants, including al-Qaida, on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan does not allow American troops to operate in that area, and the new leaders have said they favor negotiations, not force.
Mr. RICHARD BOUCHER (State Department Official): Our reaction is that it's been tried before and hasn't really worked.
MONTAGNE: That's Richard Boucher, the State Department official responsible for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He spoke to us yesterday from his office at the State Department.
Mr. BOUCHER: Whether you're negotiating or you're using force, the goal is to end the threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the rest of us that emanates from those areas. You have to judge it by its outcome, and negotiations haven't produced an end to the plotting, an end to the planning, an end to the bombs. So one can negotiate, but you have to judge every action by its outcome.
MONTAGNE: Well, here's the argument that the opposition has made. It's argued that a popularly-elected government could make more progress along the borders, that they'd have more sway among people there against the radicals in their midst. And in a sense they would say it's been strengthened by the fact that in this election the religious parties that did have some political power there actually did very badly. So the argument is it's a changed political landscape.
Mr. BOUCHER: You can try it, but I think we have always found that a negotiation that's not backed by a certain amount of force can't really force out the bad guys who are up there and need to be taken care of. Ultimately it's the outcome that matters. Is al-Qaida still up there and operating? Are they sending suicide bombers into Pakistan and Afghanistan? And ultimately you can negotiate, but you also have to back it by force.
MONTAGNE: And are you actively making that argument right now?
Mr. BOUCHER: We're actively talking to everybody about the need to pursue a broad effort against extremism, not just a military one, but modernizing the education system, giving people things that can be done to move the society as a whole away from extremism.
MONTAGNE: The U.S. has reportedly been allowed to us unmanned drones to launch strikes against identified terrorist targets inside Pakistan along the boarder. Is that still an option at this point?
Mr. BOUCHER: I think we're all determined to cooperate and do everything we can against terrorism, but I can't go into any more detail than that.
MONTAGNE: There of course has long been a ban on the part of Pakistan of actually moving troops across the boarder. Is that still in effect?
Mr. BOUCHER: We see Pakistan as a partner in the war on terror. We work with them in a variety of ways, but it doesn't do us a whole lot of good to go into any more detail in public discussion.
MONTAGNE: There's a proposal from Senator Joseph Biden, who was there as an observer in this recent election, to triple the non-military aid to Pakistan, aid for roads, schools, healthcare. Is that something the administration would embrace?
Mr. BOUCHER: The first thing is to make clear we already spend a lot of money on, you know, education, healthcare, economic reform.
MONTAGNE: Could you give an example of the sort of things that you would consider seriously in terms of development or education - roads, schools, that sort of thing?
Mr. BOUCHER: Well, I'll tell you what we just started. We just started this year $150 million a year program that adds to a 100 million the Pakistanis are putting in, to modernize the economy in the tribal areas, to put in infrastructure so that they can attract investment and factories, to do vocational training, schools, so that kids can get jobs instead of guns.
MONTAGNE: And the security is sufficiently good for these programs actually to get under way and...
Mr. BOUCHER: Not everywhere. I think that is one of the keys, frankly, because it goes along with the security plan for that region, and the fact is that if - if people who live there actually do take hold of their security and settle things down, they can get a benefit from that. and I think that's part of the calculus, is that people will want to create a security environment where roads and schools and hospitals can go forward, and we'll be trying to do both in tandem with each other.
MONTAGNE: Thank you for joining us.
Mr. BOUCHER: Thank you very much. Good to talk to you.
MONTAGNE: Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher spoke to us yesterday from his office at the State Department. And this morning news of another strike into Pakistanis tribal areas.
Pakistani intelligence officials say as many as a dozen people were killed today in a missile attack on a house in a Pakistan boarder area. It's an area that's known to be home to al-Qaida militants, but authorities in Pakistan haven't said who exactly was killed or where exactly the missile came from.